New report, new activity shows growth of drone, precision ag

By Staff | May 08, 2019

The allure of drones used for precision agriculture continues to grow. Although the market for precision agriculture-based drones and robots was only at $2.5 million in 2018, a new report by BIS Research indicates the market (including both drones and robots) could explode to $23 billion in the next decade.

The BIS Research team said ag-based drones, along with robots, will be used for precision crop farming, livestock monitoring and management, indoor farming, aquaculture, forestry and orchards. Much of the market is driven by initiatives, policies and support by governments in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, Australia and China. The biggest concern amongst all of the countries, the report said, was the concern for sustainable food production and security.

In 2019, the drone industry continues to advance its capabilities in the precision agriculture, farming and vegetation sector.

PrecisionHawk’s Software

PrecisionHawk Inc., often considered one of the leading drone service providers and innovators in the space, launched PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture in April. The system provides an aerial mapping, modeling and agronomy platform designed for agriculture. The platform is available to growers and crop insurers. According to the company, using the software, farmers can process aerial data from multiple drone missions to identify and correct areas of concern before a planting season, during the growing season, or before harvest. Using machine learning models, the software features vegetative health indexing, plant and livestock counting, and canopy sizing, all of which can be tailored for specific crops and use cases. Farmers can aggregate these measures into custom zones and plots before exporting prescription maps and other data sets into farm management systems. Ultimately, the technology is empowering a more accurate and holistic view of the farm.

Analytics For Canola

This week, Toronto-based Deveron Corp. entered into a partnership with Airinov to provide North American growers with a system for managing in-season crop nutrient applications. Deveron has developed a network of drone technology developers, pilots and soil specialists across North American that can work with growers and farming operations. The new partnership with Airinov is aimed at helping cereal and canola crop growers. Using in-season drone-captured imagery, the team will be able to help drive nitrogen-injection decisions for wheat, barley, oats and canola.

Airinov is based in France and has developed algorithms that have helped increase crop prices per acre from $42 to $61 per acre, according to the company.

“The North American cereals and canola markets represent over 100 million acres,” said David MacMillan, president and CEO of Deveron. “As precision agriculture begins to take hold across all crops, we see a tremendous growth opportunity for Deveron through this partnership.” 

Drones Designed For Ag

Delair, a drone-based data solutions provider, has also expanded its precision agriculture offerings this year. The company built a fixed-wing drone specifically for ag and forestry surveying and paired it with an artificial intelligence-based system to provide a workflow to collect, manage, analyze and share ag data.

The system is designed to fly up to 370 acres in a single flight using 3G/4G connectivity. Multispectral sensors capture the plant level of most crops, RGB (color) images and other measurements.

Delair as a company has gained huge support from investors and grown through unique partnerships or acquisitions. The company acquired the assets of a former Trimble entity, along with the software assets of the investor-backed Airware. Intel Corp. has put forward a strategic investment in Delair.

In China this week, XAG launched a granule spreading system called JetSeed that is mounted to a multirotor. The system is designed to dispense granules such as seeds, fertilizers and pesticides.

XAG’ s co-founder Justin Gong said, "70 percent of the rangelands across China are in urgent need of revegetation, and many countries are also facing the difficulty to spread grass seeds for grassland restoration."

One of the biggest difficulties is to restore a healthy vegetation through selective seeding, even in rugged terrains, he added. Grass seeds should only be broadcasted on specific land patches to avoid damaging the original native plant species while enhancing the abundance of the entire grassland.